Stories, song and shades of green at St Patrick’s Day parades around the country

Parades in Cork, Galway, Sligo, Belfast, Tullamore and Newbridge see large turnouts to see local talent celebrating national holiday

A performer takes part in the St Patrick's Day Parade in Belfast. Photograph: Jonathan McCambridge/PA Wire

Cork

Cork celebrated its largest-ever St Patrick’s Day parade, with 3,500 participants representing 55 groups, with a theme of “A Century of Stories”.

The Sanctuary Runners were a sea of blue in matching tops as the group which brings together asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and Irish residents served as the Grand Marshals.

Ireland has more than 10,000 Sanctuary Runners in 35 groups across Ireland. One hundred members of the Cork group, who hail from countries all over the world, led the parade which saw 50,000 spectators line the route.

Participants included the Barrack Street Band, which was founded in 1837. Other local entries included members of the Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance, Neptune Basketball Club, Cork Puppetry Company, Bodran Bookhills from Joseph’s NS, the Rebel Wheelers and the Defence Forces band.

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US participants included 350 students from the University of Florida Gator Marching Band and Grandview High School Wolf Pride Band from Denver, Colorado.

Other participants included the Aatma Indian dance troupe who last year treated spectators to a surprise marriage proposal on the parade route. Troupe member Lorenzo Zanca proposed to his fellow member and girlfriend of two years, Manasi Nadkarni, who jumped into his arms and said “Yes”.

Meanwhile, Macroom hosted more than 120 visitors from Philadelphia, with members of the Woodland String Band finally taking part in the town’s parade. A group of 169 people had travelled from the American city in March of 2020 to participate in the parade in the town. Instead they had to quarantine for a week in a hotel as the Covid-19 pandemic raged. – Olivia Kelleher

Galway

Macnas stilt walkers taking part at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Galway City. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Up to 40,000 spectators lined the streets of Galway for this year’s St Patrick’s Day parade, with the event reaching its climax in Eyre Square.

Undeterred by early morning showers, crowds were up to 20 deep in places, in prime position to catch a glimpse of the more than 2,800 participants.

The festivities served as a lap of honour for outgoing director of rugby at Connacht Rugby Andy Friend, who served as joint grand marshal in advance of his departure from the province this summer.

Among those taking part were a number of Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in the city over the past year – offering a “message of thanks” to the people of Galway for the warm welcome they have received.

Community groups and sports organisations spanning GAA, rugby, soccer, judo and cricket were represented, as were several city schools and Scouts groups.

The St Patrick’s Brass Band provided the atmosphere as members of the Defence Forces, emergency services and Galway’s maritime community paraded through the streets.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim, Indian, Filipino and Polish communities celebrated the city’s diversity, joined by United Women Galway, which supports migrant women of more than 30 nationalities.

Galway’s own Macnas theatre company drew the parade to a close with stilt-walkers, musicians and dancers. – Stephen Corrigan

Sligo

Sligo was turned into the country’s traditional music HQ over St Patrick’s Day, according to the parade organisers, who chose “ceol agus craic” as the theme for this year’s event.

Thousands of people turned out to view the parade which celebrated local sporting achievements while also reflecting the county’s strong musical tradition.

Local businessman Finbarr Filan said the festivities were extending over three days with 20 venues hosting music sessions on a “traditional trail” around the town.

“We’re delighted to be showcasing so much local talent,” said Mr Filan, whose brother Shane Filan is a member of Westlife. The organisers were also pleased to welcome a strong contingent from the Sligo-based Ukrainian community, he said.

A 400-year-old music tradition was also being celebrated in Sligo and Leitrim on St Patrick’s Day with a group of mummers wearing the traditional straw headdresses out in force at parades in Carrick-on-Shannon, Mohill and Ballymote. Courtesy of the Sowing the Seed project and the Áirc Damhsa Culture Club, many of the participants grew the oats used to make their distinctive headgear. – Marese McDonagh

Belfast

A performer takes part in the St Patrick's Day Parade in Belfast. Photograph: Jonathan McCambridge/PA Wire

Ravers in furry rainbow leg-warmers, teenage punks and pipe bands danced and sang along together in a music-themed St Patrick’s Day parade in Belfast.

Crowds were six-deep outside City Hall as thousands lined the streets.

This year’s event celebrated Belfast’s Unesco City of Music status in recognition of its rich musical heritage.

Billed as the ‘voices of Belfast’ parade, it was staged by the arts organisation Beat Carnival.

Stewards handed out green shamrock flags to the huge number of children and tourists as the rain managed to hold off.

Local arts groups – including The Duncairn and Féile an Phobail – took part, with some dressed as giant cellos and accordions while Irish dancers and an Indian dance group performed.

Belfast Lord Mayor Tina Black led the parade accompanied by a dance troupe that included adults with learning disabilities kitted out in St Patrick’s costumes.

“It’s surprising, it’s more like a carnival that we would see in Paris, with local youth groups and schools,” said French tourist Denis De Pret, dressed in a large green hat and wig. “We came here as we wanted to discover what St Patrick means in Ireland. It’s less traditional than what we expected but it’s exciting.” – Seanín Graham

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Tullamore

Five big marching bands were among the highlights of the 40th anniversary St Patrick’s Parade in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

The usual mix of community groups, schools, sporting organisations, music groups and dancing schools joined in the celebrations, which failed to be dampened by the rain.

The parade’s anniversary was being shared with Tullamore Camogie Club, celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the local credit union, which is celebrating 60 years, making it a special community event. Coincidentally, the visiting Army Band from Athlone is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

The theme of this year’s parade, apart from the anniversaries, was “Tidy Towns – a community effort” which was reflected in many of the entrants.

Tullamore Comhaltas performers performed before the parade at the review stand, while the Offaly Search and Recovery team “floated” by in a rigid inflatable, closely followed by the Tullamore TradFest and Beat on the Peat music festival entries.

Fortunately for all, the rain lifted within 20 minutes of the start of the parade, which swelled the number of spectators to an estimated 10,000, much to the delight of the grand marshals, for whom the event is a labour of love – even after 40 years. – Vivienne Clarke

Newbridge

The St Patrick's Day parade in Newbridge

The St Patrick’s Day Parade in Newbridge, Co Kildare was so good they did it twice.

Organisers decided in advance to split it in two, and the motor vehicles which take part every year, from hot rod enthusiasts to local businesses’ lorries, got their own cavalcade in advance of the main parade. This was because of the size of this year’s event, the largest ever, with more than 60 participating groups.

The theme of the day was “celebrating the Curragh” – in a nod to the nearby plains, home to the Defence Forces Training Centre, parade sponsors The Curragh Racecourse and St Brigid of legend. A military colour party accompanied by modern and vintage army vehicles – the latter from the military museum on the Curragh – kicked off the community element of the parade.

There was an international flavour to events, with traditional dancers from the Kildare Filipino community and members of the Kildare Chinese Cultural Association bringing a splash of colour to the rainy streets. – Laura Coates